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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

COUNTRY LAWYER

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Driving yesterday on two 4-lane highways and a couple of 2-lane highways, it felt on the 2-lane I was driving in the landscape. Landscape up to the road either side of the road. When it was forest on 16 heading to Marion, forest floor on both sides of the road pulled at me to park and go walking. Whenever I pass a wooded scene like that I look deep into it to see the individual trees, last year's leaves the most beautiful carpet ever. I can only do that a second at a time, especially with front wheel drive that tends to go where my eyes go. My landscape gawking is a snapshot view at a time. That's ok. I still get to see it. I love the highway from Mouth of Wilson to Marion, every mile of the way, every time of year. I pass roads that I've been down and remember them as I go by.



Hwy 72 in Virginia has its own quality similar to that of hwy 16 along that stretch, Volney, Grant, Troutdale, Sugar Grove. People live all along the way. Homes in landscape. Every time I pass Joe Osborne's farm, Joe dead at least 15 years, I remember the time I went to the house to tell him and his wife of his friend Lorne Campbell's passing. They knew he'd died, but I knew they would want to know the circumstances around it. Their primary concern was, was he saved? It was an expression of how much they cared about him. They were afraid for him because of his absence of interest in religion. It was a beautiful moment seeing how much they cared.



I told them that he'd told me when he first came into these mountains of SW Virginia, age 19 from San Diego, California, he rode with an old traveling preacher, who rode a horse from community to community through SW Va for several months, close to a year, if not a year, Lorne taking care of handling the Bibles he sold at the different meetings. Distributing Bibles is what he was doing. I couldn't imagine Lorne Campbell with the mind he had, riding with the Old Baptist preacher, who surely instructed him and I have no doubt Lorne made his profession with the old preacher, whose name I can't remember. I didn't see any way around it. He was learning the mountains, the mountain people, mountain religion, mountain belief systems, and he dove headfirst into this world without electricity. They'd had electricity where he came from for a long time. It was his introduction to the mountains, about 1930.



I'll tell you a little bit more about Lorne. On the way to the Atlantic from the Pacific, he went through the Panama Canal, age 18, just out of high school where he'd been the tennis champ. He landed in jail for 6 months for I don't remember what, probably nothing more than being drunk and doing something stupid. He went to New York and got a job as swimming pool guard at a swank hotel. In New York he met Spencer Parsons, from Grayson County, Va, who was driving a trolley car at the time, him about the same age as Lorne. They became friends. Lorne followed the harvest across Canada from east to west putting up hay, earning some money to operate with. Back in New York, he and Spencer went to Grayson County.



While they were in Grayson, Spencer married his cousin, which was against the law, and had to get out of the state. He went back to Baltimore, if I remember correctly, and went into debt buying some apartment buildings and paid for them and lived on the rent. That's what he did the rest of his life. He never had another job. Done as he pleased. Retired and died outside Elkins, West Virginia, beautiful country. Back in Grayson, the law was looking for where Spencer went. Because Lorne was his friend, in court Lorne testified that he would not tell. Contempt of court, 6 months in the Wilkesboro jail.



Out of jail, he took to learning Virginia law from a lawyer in Indepencence, John Parsons (I'm not 100% about the John, but close), who tutored him for a year. He passed the bar in 1932, the last year he could take the bar exam without going to law school. Age 21 he's a lawyer, no college, no law school, and by the end of his life had the name the best lawyer in SW Virginia. They said he would hold your hand all the way to the prison door, meaning he did everything he could to keep his clients out of prison. His reason, mountain boys don't belong in prison. This was also his purpose as a lawyer, to keep the boys of SW Virginia out of prison.



One got him, however, the son of a hunting friend. The boy had got into some really bad shit with another guy. The other guy went right off to prison, while Lorne was working to keep his client out. It was about the hardest trick he'd ever pulled. He jumped through a lot of burning hoops for it. Right up to the last minute he kept at it until he prevailed. Had to go to Atlanta. The boy was free to go, but he wanted to go to prison. He and the other guy were lovers and wanted to be together. Campbell had a heart attack. It made him so mad he blew a gasket. Yet, it was convenient to be in Atlanta where the hospital could take him right away. Every time I pass the driveway to Joe Osborne's dairy farm that used to be, these are the thoughts that occupy my mind several miles down the road.






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